CORONAVIRUS INFO PROVIDED BY DR. JIM HARRIS –12/04/2021

HOW DO I GET COVID TESTED IN HARRISON COUNTY in DECEMBER 2021?

Jennifer Hancock

Testing is available at most primary care physician offices, urgent cares and pharmacies in our area. Testing is also available at a private company, MLife is located in Marshall and can be contacted via email covid19@mlifedx.com or phone 833-654-3339 or https://www.mlifedx.com/ which is their easy to use web site.

Texas has a web site that allows users to enter their zip code to find a testing site in the area:

 https://tdem.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=1e91fb79fa44417898738e5bff31a3d8. Residents can also call 211 Texas to get information on testing as well. According to their website, 2-1-1 Texas, a program of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, is committed to helping Texas citizens connect with the services they need. Whether by phone or internet, the goal is to present accurate, well-organized and easy-to-find information from state and local health and human services programs. This is accomplished through the work of 25 Area Information Centers (AICs) across the state. 2-1-1 Texas is a free, anonymous social service hotline available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. No matter where you live in Texas, you can dial 2-1-1, or (877) 541-7905, and find information about resources in your local community. Whether you need help finding food or housing, childcare, crisis counseling or substance abuse treatment, one number is all you need to know.

It is my understanding that testing can’t be denied for the inability to pay, if you meet the testing criteria. Also, many of our area schools have testing available.

Each testing site, if not your primary care provider would be responsible for treatment and quarantine guidance. Over the counter test are available for purchase, but this does not come with medical advice.

At the Marshall-Harrison County Health District, we get phone calls about testing daily and try to direct people to the appropriate place. We also get calls daily from people that need to see a doctor about flu, strep, high blood pressure, COPD, diabetes, and other illnesses that don’t have a way to see a private doctor. We work hard to give them information on getting assistance through state programs as well as also federally qualified health care (FQHC) programs. Genesis Primecare is a FQHC and a great resource for those that do not have insurance.

Our office staff can be reached at 903-938-8338, we have a recorded message with updated services and hours and options to speak to our staff as well. Translation services are available in our office. More information about COVID 19 can be found at https://www.dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/ .

PICTURE OF OMICRON

J. Harris: I’d assume Omicron is coming or already here. Smith County numbers are up and in the NET area (we are not a member) the numbers have doubled in a week — but they are still low. Wear your masks. 

NORTHEAST TEXAS HEALTH ORGANIZATION

FROM HOPKINS FRIDAY:

1. Sending the Right Message About the Omicron Variant is Tricky (NPR) With the first case of omicron confirmed in California and more cases expected across the U.S., public health officials who know the difference between good and bad crisis communication say they can’t afford to be quiet and wait until scientists know how risky the new variant is before they speak out. “We don’t want to just be silent on the matter, because then that can cause fear and then that can allow for misinformation to creep in,” says Elya Franciscus, the epidemiology operations manager for COVID-19 in Harris County, Texas.

 2. Colleges With High Vaccination Rates Must Now Decide If They’ll Require Boosters (NPR) This week, Wesleyan University in Connecticut held its first booster vaccine clinic on campus. CJ Joseph, a first-year student still figuring out what to major in, wasted no time signing up. “I was like, ‘Heck, yes, I will be the first person to get it’ ” Joseph says, who was actually one of the first students to get the shot at Wednesday’s clinic at Beckman Hall. The convenience was a major selling point. “I have a lot of work to do,” Joseph explains. “Being able to walk like a good four minutes just to get my COVID vaccine made it so much easier for me and I didn’t have to spend money to get an Uber to go over to Walgreens or to CVS.”

FROM THE ATLANTIC (who carry great Covid articles)

1. We Know Almost Nothing About the Omicron Variant

By Katherine J. WU

”…three essential metrics: how quickly the variant spreads; if it’s capable of causing more serious disease; and whether it might be able to circumvent the immune protection left behind by past SARS-CoV-2 infections or COVID-19 vaccines, or evade immune-focused treatments such as monoclonal antibodies….What we don’t know, and what is really hard to predict, is what the combination of mutations will do together…. [Fortunately our] surveillance systems have worked exactly in the way they are designed to. It makes us know what to look out for. However, when these systems pick up a signal, we don’t immediately get the epidemiologic data we need to know all of the impacts a new variant can have. That takes time….It’s important to keep in mind that other variants of concern have emerged before, including immune-evasive variants like Beta, which was first identified in South Africa, but eventually petered out….So this was predictable. If the virus has the opportunity to spread unchecked in the population, then we’re giving it multiple ways in which to evolve and adapt…We have antivirals that are coming down the pike. We have a better understanding of how to manage and treat cases of people who do get infected. We have vaccines and incredible mRNA technology that allows us to adapt quickly to a changing virus, and we will have second-generation vaccines. It’s definitely not back to square one…

”…This variant could not have chosen a worse time to emerge. We’re in flu season. This is a time when respiratory viruses tend to spread quite efficiently. And we are in the holiday season, and there’s a lot of traveling, and a lot of people getting together with family. But it’s certainly not the time for people to let their guard down, or relax on nonpharmaceutical interventions. People have to be mindful of wearing their mask when they’re out in public, or in crowded areas with people whose vaccination status they may not know…

”…We are in a global pandemic, and we cannot address this fully if we only have regional solutions. The solutions really have to be with a global mindset. And that global mindset means that the resources we have—vaccination, testing, access to therapeutics, and also the support to carry out appropriate surveillance—need to be equally accessible and equitably distributed in all parts of the world…”

2. Omicron’s Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios

By Rachel Gutman

”…Omicron’s effect on the course of the pandemic will be determined by three factors: its transmissibility; the degree to which it evades our existing immune defenses; and its virulence, or the severity of the disease that it causes….If Omicron ends up being super contagious, for example, but mild in its symptoms, that might even be a good thing—a perfect variant, just in time for Christmas….Even if every human on Earth gained a degree of immunity from vaccination or infection, the virus could retreat into its many animal hosts, only to reenter the human population in a slightly different form. “There’s no reasonable person, I think, in public health now who thinks that eradication or elimination or having zero COVID is a realistic goal,” says Tara Kirk Sell, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.”

”Doctors from South Africa and Israel have said that cases of Omicron seem to be less serious than Delta, so far. Zero severe cases or deaths have been reported among the nearly 60 confirmed cases in the European Union. But the data are very limited and prone to bias. Fewer than 250 cases have been reported worldwide, and the plurality of them are from South Africa, where a younger-than-average populace might be less susceptible to COVID complications in general….

”When two variants are circulating, the one that infects more people more quickly will tend to dominate…mild COVID cases may not lead the immune system to produce as many antibodies as do more serious illnesses…In the next few weeks, we’ll find out whether Omicron will have its own silver lining—or whether it’ll be catastrophically worse.”

3. The Coronavirus Could Get Worse

(J. Harris: This is an Aug, 24, 2021 written by Ms. WU. It is a long but readable article about virus, mutations, and such. )

FROM NYT:

1. SPAIN IS 80% VACCINATED AND WILL BE WATCHED FOR OMICRON PREVENTION

”…As much of Europe reels from a surge of infections, experts attribute Spain’s vaccine success, in part, to its widely trusted public health system, which spearheaded the effort. Politicians also played a big role, taking their doses with fanfare early on and avoiding politicized debate about the vaccine. Spaniards, for the most part, followed the health guidance of their leaders when it came to vaccines, masks and other precautions….”

(J. Harris: Now let’s watch and see what Omicron does there.)

2. Most Covid vaccines will work as boosters, a study suggests.

(J. Harris: Brief report regarding elegant but unreadable study reported in current LANCET.)

Viral Dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 Variants in Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Persons

”…we collected and analyzed a prospective, longitudinal set of 19,941 SARS-CoV-2 viral samples obtained from 173 participants as part of the occupational health program of the National Basketball Association between November 28, 2020, and August 11, 2021…

Breakthrough infections among vaccine recipients were characterized by a faster clearance time than that among unvaccinated participants, with a mean of 5.5 days (95% credible interval, 4.6 to 6.5) and 7.5 days (95% credible interval, 6.8 to 8.2), respectively. The shorter clearance time led to a shorter overall duration of infection among vaccine recipients …The participants in this study were predominantly healthy young men and thus were not representative of the general population. Symptoms were not systematically tracked, nor did we test for the presence of infectious virus.

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